I wanted to look at monuments and statuary without the insane hassles which come with flying, or the exhaustion which comes with days of driving. Since my preferred method of travel, zeppelin service, is not yet available, I elected to give Amtrak a try. Here is how it went, for those of you (like me) who haven't taken that mode of travel yet and are curious.
First of all, thanks suckers! Amtrak burns through taxpayer cash faster than a solar energy startup. Of course, railheads like to point out that other forms of transportation have public funding involved as well, and they are right. Even the profitable freight lines on whose rails Amtrak has to run wouldn't be there without the public handing them large tracts of America way back when. My personal view is that infrastructure is a vital part of keeping America together and government has a role to play in that. Exactly what the role is, and how involved are subjects for debate, but like any other program, if it is offered, one should at least consider taking advantage.
With politics set aside for now, let's move on to packing. I have actually not traveled very far in the last few years, and it has been a very long time since I went anywhere in anything other than a car. Two things became very apparent to me: First, you have to be more careful about your packing. In a car, you can overdo it because it's your car. You just leave the excess stuff in the trunk or back seat. Second, the last few years have seen an upsurge in electronic devices. before I knew it, I had put in my bag the cellphone charger, the e-reader (and charger) netbook (and charger) digital camera (with case, batteries, and memory cards) DVD player (with charger and selection of movies) GPS (with charger) plus the multicard reader and connecting cables. Don't even get me started on medication. I'd no idea how much space pill bottles take up.
All told, my bag tipped the scales at about twenty pounds. My first mistake was to put it in a gym bag, figuring twenty pounds wasn't that much to carry. Wrong! When I got to DC, I switched to one of those bags with the telescoping handle and wheels. Not only do wheels make it easier to haul around, they let you take your stuff into a restroom with a urine soaked floor without getting anything messy except the wheels. A minor error was to get a hard sided case. A softside would have been easier to squish into the cabin, and the extra zippered compartments would have been useful. Still, the hard case kept everything safe, and it is a snap to clean.
Second mistake was to cram everything into one bag. While on layover in Chicago, I put my bag in storage, which left me having to carry camera and e-reader in my hands. My moment of panic was when I returned to the lounge and realized I'd left my Kindle in the restroom. Amazingly, it was still there when I raced back, but it underscored the necessity of having something to keep your vital stuff with you as well as freeing up your hands.
Next: Train Inspection